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Natural gas catch-22

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Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 2:34 pm

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Natural gas catch-22

Twist this one around in your brain. An industry demands that you prove it is contaminating your water. But the same industry also refuses to say what chemicals it’s injecting deep underground, which keeps you from getting the proof. That’s the gist of a contentious hearing today in Congress over new techniques of chemically assisted deep drilling for natural gas, and a spate of poisoned groundwater in the same areas at the same time. Here’s the gist of the story by Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica:

Among those who testified at the hearing was Scott Kell (PDF),
the oil and gas regulator for the state Ohio and president of the Ground Water
Protection Council, whose members include both industry officials and state

Kell personally conducted the Ohio investigation that named hydraulic
fracturing as a contributing factor in water contamination there, yet Kell
repeated the industry position that there has never been a single case of
contamination in which hydraulic fracturing was proven to be the cause. Kell
also introduced letters from state regulators in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico,
Alabama and Texas refuting ProPublica’s findings.

"The states have become aware of press reports and websites alleging that six
states have documented over one thousand incidents of ground water contamination
resulting from the practice of hydraulic fracturing," Kell said. "Such reports
are not accurate."

In fact, ProPublica’s stories documented more than 1000 cases in which water
was contaminated in the same places where fracturing takes place. In most of
those cases the EPA said it was impossible to prove a link to fracturing because
researchers don’t have access to the complete list of chemicals industry uses –
without that list they say they can’t trace the contaminants to their source
with certainty

So the industry demands that it remain deregulated, and that it be allowed to keep secret the chemicals it uses when injecting huge amounts of water to push natural gas to the surface. Contaminated wells? Not their problem.

It’s a fairly simple issue that shows everything wrong with industry "self-regulation." Yet aside from upstart nonprofit ProPublica, there’s been very little coverage from the ever-shrinking mainstream media. Good reason to support the upstart, eh?


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